A PhD project at The University of Western Australia has resulted in the development of a house which can sustain itself in a bushfire without human intervention.
The concept, the brainchild of Dr Ian Weir, is expected to have far reaching implications for the future of housing in Western Australia's bushfire prone areas.
The first house, which was completed in August 2008 at Bremer Bay for the Hollingworth family, has won two design awards.
Dr Weir says the idea developed from an investigation into ways of creating site-specific architecture for biodiverse landscapes without having to clear the land.
"I worked on finding ways, through architecture, of bringing the family into close proximity with their extremely biodiverse and beautiful site," he said.
"Like most bushland sites in Australia, it is also extremely fire-prone. So I had to develop a building which could not only protect the Hollingworths, but could sustain itself in a bushfire, without human intervention."
The Hollingworth house has bushfire-rated reflective glazing in windows that reach down to the floor, to allow vegetation to grow close to the house. It has perforated roller shutters (tested by CSIRO) that can be remotely controlled from 100 metres away.
The roof is designed to prevent embers from getting caught; there is a sprinkler system protecting the timber decks; and there is a safety zone inside the house which has dedicated fire fighting and safety equipment in it.
Dr Weir is currently working on three more houses in fire-prone landscapes, two in Bremer Bay and one at William Bay, near Denmark.